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Nov 29, 2022

Line in the Sand: December 2022

Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine

Photography By

Is it ever too early to listen to Christmas music? Barry Kafuman November 1. That’s how far I made it this year. On October 31, I was passing out candy to the neighborhood kids (full-size Kit Kats, because I am a legend). Less than 12 hours later, there was the vilest of human compositions pouring […]

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Is it ever too early to listen to Christmas music?

Barry Kafuman

November 1. That’s how far I made it this year.

On October 31, I was passing out candy to the neighborhood kids (full-size Kit Kats, because I am a legend). Less than 12 hours later, there was the vilest of human compositions pouring forth from my car stereo, ready to usher in two months of mandatory merriment.

“Last Christmas,” my radio chided me, “I gave you my heart. The very next day, you threw it away.”

Not even a full day into it, and I had already lost the unofficial game of the holidays, Whamageddon. For those unfamiliar, Whamageddon is a game that starts at the crack of midnight on Halloween and goes right up until you inevitably lose. The closest you get to winning is seeing how far into the season you can go without hearing Wham’s “Last Christmas.” (This game was originally played with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but there were too many fatalities). My record is December 15, for those who are curious. And I had already stumbled on the starting block.

So being a mature adult, I immediately took to Instagram to complain about losing this year’s Whamageddon in record time. And who should emerge from the digital ether with a sarcastic clapback to my misery but my old nemesis Courtney Hampson. Courtney, it should not surprise anyone, LOVES Wham. She loves Wham so much she even knows the other guy in Wham’s name. I wanna say … Darryl something? I don’t know; I’m pretty sure even George Michael never even bothered to learn that.

Bolstered by her love of disposable 1980s pop duos, Courtney had the audacity to call me that one epithet that seems to strike everyone who doesn’t start trimming the tree in August: She called me a Grinch. This meant war.

Because I want to be clear on one thing: I love Christmas. I love the look on my kids’ faces when they unwrap presents. I love snuggling under a blanket to hear Linus Van Pelt throw down some of that old time religion. I’m not big on eggnog, but I will make an absolute disgrace of myself over some Christmas cookies.

And the reason I love Christmas is the same reason a lot of you do: the nostalgia for Christmas past. I love thinking back to my snowy memories of waking up Christmas morning to find that Santa had braved the Michigan weather to bring me a bike. I love memories of stringing lights up on the tree, even though these were late ’70s-era bulbs that would heat up to thermonuclear levels within minutes of being plugged in. I even love Christmas music. Not Wham, mind you, but good Christmas music.

And part of what makes those memories special is their scarcity. I have fond memories of Christmas, not fond memories of the entire month of November and maybe parts of October. It’s too much, and by widening the season to encompass basically the entire post-Labor Day year, it cheapens Christmas.

Look, some of us still hold to the old ideals of what Christmas is about. It’s about love for your fellow human beings. It’s about the part of your soul that yearns to give to others. It’s about maintaining good will toward men. And some of us have a really hard time keeping that going for more than a month. If you ask us to start being decent humans for an entire quarter of a year, we’re not going to handle it well.

Plus, at some point we just have to put our foot down.

I know “Christmas starts earlier every year” isn’t really the hottest of takes, and maybe it’s a sign I’m getting older that it’s starting to bother me. But it is. I can remember a time when I was barely cognizant of when Christmas “started.” It just kind of happened some time after Thanksgiving. And then it crept down the calendar. For a while, we drew a line in the cranberries at Black Friday. Absolutely no Christmas until after the Lions have their annual loss, we said. 

And for a while, the yuletide zealots kept to their side of that line. Somewhere in the last decade, though, they slipped by us. Now Thanksgiving serves as this sort of island in a sea of red and green, the one day dedicated to something besides flooding the front door with Amazon boxes.

I’ve been over Thanksgiving before; suffice it to say, I like turkey but not enough to spend my whole day on it. So, I wasn’t disappointed to see Thanksgiving overwhelmed by Christmas, but I was alarmed. Because the next bulkhead against this wave of holly jolly Christmas creep is Halloween.

Will it ever get that far? Will Halloween one day just be a brief day of spookiness amid a summer-to-spring Christmas season? I’d be paranoid if I said yes. But then, we said that about Thanksgiving at one point. And now here we are, with another line drawn on either side of Wham’s “Last Christmas.”

Look, I’m not telling you that you can’t enjoy Christmas if you want. There are enough actual Grinches out there, and I certainly don’t want to be one of them. But at least try and tone it down a little bit. You want to listen to songs like “Last Christmas” and “All I Want For Christmas is You,” pop music that’s mostly about sex but also kind of about the holidays? Go for it.

But please, for the sake of those of us with fond memories of a Christmas season that was measured in weeks, not months, keep it off the radio at least until the turkey’s gone.

 Courtney Hampson

Cue the visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. To quote Kenny Rogers and Carrie Underwood, “Christmas is my favorite time of year.”

Unfortunately, in the most recent (um, 15 years) past, I had a little trouble getting into the ho-ho-holiday spirit. For a decade and a half, I was responsible for planning and executing a weeklong event that always took place the week before Thanksgiving. This event rendered me physically, mentally, and emotionally incapable of setting my brain on holiday—of any kind—mode until the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Even four calling birds couldn’t get me out of my work-induced funk.

This meant I rarely celebrated Halloween. I mean I went as far as being “that house” that turned its lights out and didn’t even want trick-or-treaters. It also meant that while I loved hosting Thanksgiving, I couldn’t wrap my head around the task until four days before, which meant all my guests also ended up waiting until the last minute to prepare when I finally doled out the menu delegations.

And because I wasn’t thinking about talking turkey until the third week of November, Christmas never even crossed my mind pre-December. One holiday at a time was my mantra.

But this year, ah, this year, oh how times have changed. I “retired” last year from that role, and the event retired with me. This year, I dressed up for Halloween and encouraged my colleagues to do the same. We even hosted our inaugural Halloween costume contest, a major move in my holiday recovery plan. When I returned home from work that evening, two enormous bags of Halloween candy beckoned from their bowl. Holiday Courtney was alert and on point.

As the eight o’clock hour struck and trick-or-treating wound down, I lit a “spruce and fir” candle and called out, “Alexa, play holiday music.” And thus began my trip down the chimney of planning for Christmas before the clock struck November.

I have been in fa la la la festive fast forward ever since. My Instagram feed runneth over with holiday decorating ideas, and thus my cart followed suit. This year, you can expect to see new boughs of holly and cypress swag donning my mantle. Two trips to Lowes yielded a second family of illuminated and glitter-glowing reindeer and a new 12-foot Christmas tree for good measure. You can never have enough Christmas trees, right? Did I mention the addition of the five foot in diameter wreath that will look “perfect over the garage” and the eight-foot live Leland Cypress that I made hubby plant in the front yard? Why, you ask? So the family of fake deer have a place to lay down their sweet heads. Game on grinches, game on.

Now to be fair to the scrooges, the trees, wreaths, boughs, et al did not deck the halls until post-Thanksgiving. However, Thanksgiving also benefited from my new holiday outlook. For the first time in 15 turkey days, my menu and supporting shopping list were complete by November 13. We cooked two turkeys this year; double the bird, double the fun. A Christmas, er Thanksgiving, miracle. I am all in, people. All. In.

As you’re reading, the calendar has flipped to December, our house is all aglow, and I have been listening to holiday classics for more than 30 days. Christmas lists are complete, and coordinating wrapping paper is poised for ribbons and bows. And now the real work begins, writing and choreographing our annual Christmas Eve performance, as is my family’s tradition. I think we can all agree that the extra planning time this year will catapult my performance to top honors in Santa’s eyes. Will I recreate the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers? Write a song parody to the tune of “Oh, Christmas Tree”? Or lip sync “Away in a Manger” in honor of Uncle Al? So much time, so many possibilities.

Regardless of my much-advanced holiday spirit this year, whatever your pace, and wherever you are, I hope you have a beautiful holiday and a happy new year. (Even you, Barry.)

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